Travelling alone can be a very rewarding experience. You are on your own watch, doing what you want, when you want to do it. There’s no compromising at all because the only person you have to please is yourself. You hear stories about solo backpackers that have got caught out when travelling alone. Often it will be your family that are worrying more than you, but there are some things you can do to make sure you are safe when travelling solo.
First of all, when you are backpacking it is very unlikely you will be alone for long. You are going to be meeting fellow travelers along the way who are in the same boat as you, who fancy a chat and a companion. We always hear about people who met whilst travelling and stuck with them for a few months because they have got on so well. Although you’re travelling alone, it’s still good to be social. Get chatting to people you meet because you never know where it will lead you. Just make sure you have your wits about you, and if you think someone’s a bit dodgy, steer clear.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Be respectful of the country you are visiting. You should do your research before travelling so that you know what to expect when you arrive at your destination. Be wary of your behavior and dress, this applies to both men and women. You don’t want to draw negative attention to yourself because it could put you in a bad situation. Don’t go wearing yellow for instance if you’re travelling in parts of Malaysia – in 2011, the government decided it was illegal to wear yellow, as it was the colour of a certain group of activists! There are hundreds of unusual laws around the world so researching the places you’re planning on travelling to is very important. You will be able to make the most of your travel experience if you can blend in with different cultures and really soak up the atmosphere.
Just because you are having a great experience, does not mean you should lose your common sense. If anything, you should really heighten your common sense in an unfamiliar place. Stay alert and keep your wits about you. Before you arrive in a new destination, try and book at least your first night in a hotel or hostel, especially if you are arriving at night. Anyway, you will really appreciate having a room all sorted so you can just fall into bed, rather than hunting around after a long day (or days!) travelling.
Having a light backpack is surely the dream for all travelers? Then leave all your expensive stuff at home! Get yourself a cheap camera and phone before you travel so that your posh gadgets aren’t tempting any potential criminals out there. Backpackers abroad are seen as easy targets as they usually carry cash and can seem like they aren’t vigilant to their surroundings. Don’t let that be you!
LEARN THE LINGO
Learning the basic words for each of the countries you visit will really help you a lot, and shows the locals that you are embracing their culture. Learn the key words such as: hello, thank you, please, yes and no! Learning to say “no” is more important than you might think. If travelling alone in the more hospitable cultures, you may find that you get a lot of attention which can become very intense. Foreign travelers are often approached for a number of reasons and learning to say “no” can get you out of awkward situations.
Make sure your insurance covers you for all eventualities and also put your insurance company’s number in a safe place so that you can contact them. There will be British Embassies abroad which will be able to help you if you need assistance. The website www.gov.uk has a guide about supporting British nationals abroad and how the government is able to help you.
If you’re going travelling, either alone or in a group, this might be the one and only time in your life that you will get to see so much of the world. So wherever you go and whatever you do, have fun!
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